Monday, September 18, 2017

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
London attack
a heinous act
Terrorism is a language of the cowards. Violent attacks on innocent and vulnerable people do not demand bravery, but are an obvious sign of spinelessness.
Time and again terrorists engage in monstrous acts with the wrong notion that they can throttle social harmony and break the unity of peace-loving people. They are doomed to fail. The world remains more united now than ever before against the bane of terrorism.
The blast in a crowded train at Parsons Green station in west London that left several passengers injured is another heinous act by cowardly terrorists.
The fifth terrorism incident this year implies that Britain's counter-terrorism strategy needs to be swiftly strengthened and countries around the world should unify efforts more effectively to tackle the scourge of extremism.
A total of 35 people have been killed in four previous attacks in London and Manchester this year.
Three of those involved a vehicle ploughing into pedestrians. The other attack was a bombing in May at a pop concert by US star Ariana Grande in Manchester, which killed 22 people, including several children.
US President Donald Trump is correct in calling those behind the attack "loser terrorists," but he could have shown patience in tweeting his reaction wherein he mentioned that the attackers were already "in the sights" of British police.
Trump’s reaction prompted the London's Metropolitan Police to dismiss the tweet as "unhelpful speculation," while Prime Minister Theresa May felt that “it's not helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation."
The fact that in the three years until March this year, British police foiled 13 potential attacks is an encouraging signal. Nonetheless, extreme caution and continuous vigil need to continue.
The UAE, on its part, has always maintained an unequivocal position of denouncing terrorism in all its forms and manifestations regardless of their motivations, justifications and sources.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has rightly stated that the targeting of civilised societies by terrorists cannot be accepted or underestimated, and will require further serious work and a comprehensive approach, to counter extremist ideologies that promote and justify terrorism.
All those behind the ghastly attack should be brought to book and made to face justice. The latest incident once again reinforces the need for concerted efforts to effectively address extremism and terrorism, which threaten the security of all citizens in their daily lives.
North Korea
playing with fire
In another reckless act, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date and this is a matter of grave concern that necessitates stern international action.
The test-firing by Pyongyang of what it claims is a hydrogen bomb able to fit atop a missile is yet another flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
North Korea has been launching missiles at a record pace this year and fired a potentially nuclear-capable missile over northern Japan last week.
With such repeated provocative acts, the DPRK is increasingly choosing the path of isolation. Sanctions and other measures have proved not potent enough to make it see reason. Its blatant disregard for international law cannot be tolerated anymore.
The tensions related to the crisis in the region have reached unprecedented levels.
Just last month, the UN Security Council strengthened sanctions against DPRK’s exports. Unanimously adopting resolution 2371 (2017), the Council imposed a full ban on the export of coal, iron and iron ore from the north-east Asian country. Previously those items could be exported for livelihood purposes, for a limited amount.
What is worrisome is that, starting with the launches of two inter-continental ballistic missiles in July that are believed to have the range to strike the US mainland, North Korea has been far more aggressive in its military activities over the past few months than usual.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to propose new sanctions to prevent any country that trades with North Korea from doing business with the US. How effective this measure would be has to be seen, considering that similar actions so far have not had the desired impact.
Incidentally, about 90 per cent of North Korean exports go to China. When last month the UN Security Council adopted a seventh set of sanctions aimed at depriving the North of a billion dollars in income from exports, China approved the measures.
The ability of International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor North Korea's dangerous programme is also limited. Its inspectors have been shut out of the country since 2002, and Pyongyang unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty a year later.
Nuclear weapons are a threat to entire humanity. The world community has given DPRK too long a rope. It should return to the path of dialogue and abandon all nuclear weapons and nuclear programmes in a verifiable manner without more ado.
Sharjah’s new projects
will boost tourism
Every city has a definitive pulse that reflects its history, ethos and spirit. Sharjah has become synonymous with heritage and culture.
With Wednesday’s launch of two major projects, the Aljada residential project costing Dhs24 billion and the Al Mamsha project costing Dhs3 billion, the emirate is now well poised to become an international centre of culture, business and tourism that is recognised at various international events.
As Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority Khalid Jassim Al Midfa points out, the projects reflect the wise vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and the unique lifestyle made possible by these projects would become an important addition to the tourism services offered by the emirate.
Incidentally, the Aljada, owned by Arada, will be the largest privately-owned mixed-use real estate project with easy access to the main highways, accommodating neatly designed educational and developmental entities that reflect the unique splendour of the Emirate.
There are also other fascinating things on offer. The Central Hub, Aljada’s entertainment and leisure precinct, will feature an urban piazza replete with coffee shops and restaurants, and a musical fountain display as its centrepiece. The attractions will include skate parks, sports centre, and the largest children’s adventure and discovery complex in the Northern Emirates.
Sharjah is the third largest emirate in the UAE, and also has the highest development rate.
All development activities in Sharjah are mandated to follow sustainable development practices.
The launching of the Bee’ah initiative in 2007 by the emirate is considered a huge step in the quest for a healthier environment.
Sharjah has always followed a tradition of respect for nature. The government has pushed for increase in greenery areas in the emirate that will not only provide recreational areas for families, but will also help reduce the environmental footprint.
Thanks to its various attractions, the emirate draws a huge number of visitors from around the world, especially those from Europe and neighbouring Gulf countries.
The Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021 aims to increase the number of visiting tourists to 10 million by 2021.
There can be no doubt that the latest projects will promote the vital sectors, most notably tourism, by including residential, commercial, entertainment and sporting facilities, which will enable the emirate to keep pace with the demands of modern living and will make it a much-favoured destination for local and international visitors.
Myanmar has to answer
for ethnic cleansing
It is hugely distressing that Myanmar has failed to mend its ways despite a global outrage over its inhuman treatment of Rohingya Muslims.
The continued persecution of the Rohingya has led to more than 370,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh in the past three weeks, even as the Myanmar security forces and local militia continue to burn villages and shoot defenceless civilians.
Most victims are in dire need of food, medical care and shelter after trekking for days through hills and jungles or braving dangerous boat journeys.
Women, children and the elderly, many of whom are vulnerable and lack the ability to take care of themselves have also been forcefully displaced. Some civilians are even dying en route to safety.
Among the people who UN agencies and partners are helping in Bangladesh is Rohingya Dilara, who reached Bangladesh barefoot, clutching her 18-month son.
“My husband was shot in the village. I escaped with my son and in-laws,” she informed UN officials. “We walked for three days, hiding when we had to. The mountain was wet and slippery and I kept falling.”
Many of the victims tell similar stories — of Myanmar soldiers firing indiscriminately on their villages, burning their homes and warning them to leave or to die.
The United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra‘ad Al Hussein rightly informed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.
Last year itself, the UN official had issued a report warning that the pattern of gross violations of the human rights of the Rohingya suggested a widespread or systematic attack against the community, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the situation on the ground cannot yet be fully assessed since Myanmar has refused access to human rights investigators.
Adding insult to injury, Myanmar authorities are asking returnees to provide proof of nationality, which is impossible since successive Myanmar governments have from 1962 progressively stripped the Rohingya population of their political and civil rights, including citizenship rights.
Washington has rightly called on Myanmar security authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence, and end the displacement of civilians from all communities. Similar calls from around the world have been falling on deaf ears, and for too long.
Myanmar should end its merciless military operation. Those responsible for the violations against innocent civilians should be made accountable for their crimes. The widespread discrimination against the Rohingya should end now, and forever.